If this is the last season Ryan Pace has as GM of the Chicago Bears, then there is no doubt that one of the highlights of his tenure will be signing star defensive end Akiem Hicks in 2016. For $10 million no less. It was absolute thievery. From the moment he arrived, it was clear the Bears had gotten something special. Pace and everybody else were thrilled with the acquisition.
Well, not everybody.
In a recent in-depth interview with Dan Pompei of The Athletic, former guard Kyle Long couldn’t help but admit that Hicks’ arrival made his life a little more miserable. Mostly because he had to block the powerhouse constantly in practice. He got the full Hicks experience before anybody in the NFC North did.
Changes come quickly after Long’s second season. John Fox replaces Marc Trestman as head coach, bringing a new offensive line coach, Dave Magazu. The Bears sign defensive lineman Akiem Hicks in free agency. Long gets along well with Magazu and Hicks, but both become sources of stress for him, as does a position switch.
Hicks is unlike any player Long ever lined up against, with power that can shock Long from his toes to his teeth and quickness to leave Long lunging at the breeze. During one-on-ones, Bears position coaches assign their drills to their assistants so they can watch Long and Hicks go at it.
“It was,” Long says, “a battle every day.”
Akiem Hicks is hungry for a bounce-back year in 2020
It’s hard to blame Kyle for feeling that way. Nobody in their right mind would want to go against an actual Grizzly every day in practice. That is pretty much what he had to do. For his part, Hicks lauded Long for his tenacity and toughness. The big defensive end is recovering from an injury of his own, rehabbing the elbow injury that took away most of his 2019. He recently posted a video of him lifting weights again.
It isn’t hard to see he is hungry to get back on the field. Last season felt like a missed opportunity to him. A chance to take advantage of a possible championship window that opened in 2018. He’ll rejoin Khalil Mack up front and also be flanked by new arrival Robert Quinn, giving the Bears pass rush one of its fiercest looks in a long time. The potential on paper is astronomical.
Long doesn’t care though. He’s just happy he won’t have to block any of them.